Together Beating the Drum

The drum has its origins in Africa where it is symbolic of communication. The drum announces the important events in life: birth, death, an imbizo and sends messages across distancesDjembe drum more rapidly than a messenger could run. The drum can be called upon to make many different sounds and many different beats and each has its own meaning. And metaphorically speaking every Toastmaster has his or her unique tune. We try to express ourselves in words but th ese fall short of the “music” we would like to express. Toastmasters helps us to express more of our music.

The toast of the evening built on a quote from Henry Ford: COMING TOGETHER is a beginning. KEEPING TOGETHER is progress. WORKING TOGETHER is success. People working together accomplish more than the sum of their individual efforts. In response to the toast by John-Peter Gernaat, Jim Powell expressed how Toastmasters is so unlike the corporate world where people expend energy in opposing the common goal, while Toastmasters come from divergent backgrounds and interests for the purpose of improving communication and despite their differences work together at this goal. Word of the EveningThe word for the evening was synchronous: happening, existing or operating at exactly the same time. This word was first coined in 1669. It was used six times during the evening.

Three prepared speeches featured on the programme; the first was a Competent Communicator project 1 speech by two times Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) Rod Taylor. It served a wonderful example of an autobiographical speech for those listening. Rod spoke as if giving a eulogy. He began with his parents who married when he was already 6 months in the womb and had as older sister. At school he tried boxing but a future England champion was in another house and thought the better of being constantly beaten and took to the water where he excelled, first in shorter distances but later settling into the unassailable champion of the longer distances. He was an adventurer by nature and by age 17 had explored the Alps and had participated in a trip to Iceland to measure adiabatic winds. A scholarship permitted him to read chemistry and he received a lucky break when in his first job he had the opportunity to commission an extraction plant while his manager was off. His adventurous nature took him to South Africa where he married and had two sons who have produced grandchildren. He joined Toastmasters shortly into his married life as a charter member of a new club. Sadly his wife contracted cancer and after a short reprieve succumbed to the illness. This led Rod to forming his own company in the field of training and after 15 years of bachelorhood met Ruth at Toastmasters only to see her marry another man. He did not have to wait long, however, until he could make Ruth his and having reached the present ended his speech with his untimely death. Buyer beware!Jim Powell, who became a member only recently and completed his second project two week earlier, seems determined to speed his way through the Competent Communicator projects and delivered the third project speech. The objective was to construct a speech with a beginning, body and conclusion and ensure a clear flow of the message from one point to the next. He used a real experience of being telephoned by a sales company informing him that he had won a prize but needed to attend a presentation with his wife in order to retrieve the prize. The presentation promoted a timeshare holiday and before he knew it had signed, only to be frustrated each year with the booking of a holiday, until he surrendered the timeshare points for no financial return simply to be rid of them and the frustration of having to settle for a resort in a different part of the country, sleeping fewer people and at an unsuitable time. This was a prime example of the axiom: buyer beware!

John-Peter Gernaat delivered his project 9 speech of the Competent Communicator in which he had to persuade his audience to adopt his point of view. He demonstrated to his audience how there is untapped income hidden in the consumer items we all buy weekly and monthly if we chose to purchase directly from the manufacturer through a network of clients. Companies who market their products through these prosumer networks reward clients who help to build the network and use the money other companies spend on marketing to pay out bonuses. These bonuses can quickly exceed the total of one’s own purchases if one actively works at growing the network. His speech gained him both best speech and most improved speaker awards for the evening.

Mary Byrne provided an education session entitled “Evaluate to Motivate” on the task of evaluating a speech. The purpose of a speech evaluation is to provide immediate feedback that highlights the good aspects of the speech and the delivery of the speech while providing constructive assistance on those aspects where the person could improve or try a different approach.

Table topics provided the usual opportunity for quick creative thinking and great amusement. The aim was to deliver the story of a popular nursery rhyme or fairy tale backwards.

Jim saw to it that Little Red Riding Hood was spared her ordeal by getting grandma to beat the wolf up and turn him into a floor decoration. John-Peter put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Ruth Taylor seemed to get Jack into a never ending cycle of beanstalk growing. Glenice Ebedes turned the three little pigs on their heads because the brick house could not survive the Haiti earthquake while the house of sticks was blown away by the wind. The house of straw, however, provided a soft bed for all three when it collapsed. Mary roasted three billy-goats gruff and was awarded best impromptu speaker of the evening.Toastmaster of the Evening

The awards for best contribution of the evening went to Solani Bvuma who took the role of Toastmaster of the evening for the first time. She brought the theme of the evening and the meaning of the drum into vivid context.

The best evaluation award was given to Ryan Ebedes for his evaluation of John-Peter’s speech.

The next club meeting will take place on Monday, 26th April at the usual venue. The theme for the evening resonates with the public holiday that follows and is “Freedom”. All guests are welcome. We are a friendly and fun club although we take the task of Toastmasters seriously.

Living with Purpose

Monday, 29th March Transformers made their contribution to Toastmaster’s Day (27th March) by each member being encouraged to “bring a friend”. The result was a turnout of sixteen members and guests and a full programme of five prepared speeches. Word of the evening – indifference – cannot be ascribed to the members of Transformers.

The theme for the evening – Living with Purpose, selected by Kay Kotelo, who took of the role of Toastmaster of the evening for the first time, was based on “A Short Guide to a Happy Life” (2000) by Anna Quindlen. “Think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.” Not a bad maxim to live by. Quindlen is an award winning journalist turned author with a string of awards and honorary degrees to her name and has many quotable quotes ascribed to her. “The truth about your own life is not always easy to accept, and sometimes hasn't even occurred to you,” is another worth some thought.

Toast of the evening was offered by Khaled Fourati, a first time guest to Transformers but a short-time member of Toastmasters in Ottawa, Canada some years ago. In his toast he gave a short introduction to himself in relation to Toastmasters and his toast was for mutual exchange. We hope to have Khaled as a new member in the near future. Mary Byrne in her response to the toast affirmed statements made by Khaled that Toastmasters is about learning both to speak and to listen.

Kay guided the course of the evening with grace and was awarded Best Contribution for the evening as a result. The prepared speeches she introduced fitted the theme of the evening as though she had primed each of the speakers. First to present, with the title “Die Young and Quick or Old and Slow”, Jim Powell explained that the brain, like the muscles of the body, deteriorates with lack of use. He cited an interesting study of nuns where those who had died below the age of 60 were described and physically and mentally inactive and mediocre contributors to life especially in later life. The nuns who died above the age of 85 had experienced only a slight drop off in physical and mental performance in later years and had healthier brains when examined. Jim’s message was to keep physically and mentally active, suggesting dancing as an exercise that requires mental engagement, and to save for a long retirement. This speech adequately met the requirements of a Competent Communicator project 2. By the way: Jim has a supply of quotes of his own that appear from time to time in our programme. His quote associated with Living with Purpose is: “Never enter your second childhood; don’t leave your first.”

Solani Bvuma fulfilled the requirements of a Competent Communicat or project 3 with a speech entitled “Rainbow Nation”. Her speech was radiant with imagery inviting a unity despite ethnicity, economic status or other difference in the symbol of the rainbow. In the Nguni languages the rainbow is a metaphor for hope and the future. This excellent speech earned Solani the award of Best Speech of the evening.

John-Peter Gernaat completed project 8 of a Competent Communicator with a colourful presentation to support a demonstration that physiologically laughter is nature’s antidote to stress. He concluded with a question to the audience: if laughter is the antidote to stress and stress has demonstrably increased in the last 100 years, why has laughter decreased in direct proportion?

Ruth Taylor attempted to persuade her audience, as required by project 9 of the Competent Communicator, that the fruit of the cocoa tree, the cocoa bean, is one of the most complete foodstuffs around and that it therefore made sense to eat chocolate in every situation. The cocoa bean is rich in anti-oxidants that protects against cancer causing free-radicals, rich in serotonin causing one to feel great and increases mental alertness. This was perfect persuasion for a chocolate binging Easter.

Rod Taylor also spoke persuasively, but in fulfilling the requirements of the Advances Manual in Persuasive Speaking project 5: the Persuasive Leader. As a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) it was hardly surprising that he spoke about communication and persuasively lead his audience to understand that communication is more than just the words that pass between the communicator and the recipient of the communication. If the words carried all the meaning then modern technology that effortlessly transmits words would solve all communication requirements. However, the visual aspect is the largest contributor to communication with vocal tone being the second and the actual words coming a lowly third. Successful communication thus relies on face-to-face interactions and it is precisely in this activity that Toastmasters has a very effective adult education programme.

Table Topics required the speakers to persuade the audience that their life has purpose. The audience were sitting is the life raft of a sinking ship with only one empty seat. The speakers had the task of convincing the occupants of this life raft that their life was worth saving. Cheryl-Lynn Langley had two community supporting businesses that required her to steer. Ruth was offering heart surgery for a seat. Jim modestly boasted that he would not lie about the reason he should be saved. John-Peter demonstrated how he could ease their stress through laughter. Mary Byrne had the key to the emergency supplied on the life raft and would only surrender it in death and would have been saved if the vote as Best Impromptu speaker is a measure of success. One of first-time guests, Joy, was a walking GPS who would get everyone home safely.

Thorough evaluations of the prepared speeches and the evening’s use of grammar followed. Cheryl-Lynn, as an evaluator of a speech and grammarian was awarded Best Evaluator. The award for Best Improved speaker was shared by Solani and John-Peter.

Members and friends are reminded that Area H3’s Area Contest takes place on Tuesday, 13th April and that Kay Kotelo, Mary Byrne and Ryan Ebedes will be competing. Please come along to offer your support to these three accomplished speakers.

Transformers next meeting will be taking place on Monday, 12th April at the Morningside Country Club and guests are very welcome. Come along and meet the friendly bunch that make up the membership of Transformers and find out more about Toastmasters without obligation.

The Roots of Eco-Gardening

Monday's meeting took on an air of freshness as our Toastmaster for the evening, Glenice took us through the history of eco-gardening and current trends. A fascinating evening ensued as one after the other, toasters and speakers, incorporated some form of eco reference to fit in with the theme.

John gave us a toast to greening our roofs, and showed three images of distinctly different roofs which had various plant species growing on them.
One of them included a full grown tree - how's that for a roof over your head!

Ryan's word of the evening had everyone in a spin - it was, debatably, the longest recognised word in the dictionary, with 45 letters, and referred to a lung disease caused by silica inhalation. The word? Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Try saying that 10 times fast - let alone incorporating it into your speech. But whilst some referred indirectly to it's usage, Rod Ruth and Glenice managed to fit in, and thus can now claim to have used (appropriately) the longest word around.

The first speech of the evening was enlightening, humorous and intriguing...it was also a CC1!
Jim Powell gave his Ice Breaker to the group and highlighted some of the highs and lows in his life. Perhaps one of the funniest moments was finding out that he only questioned where South Africa was - once he was half way in the air!
It was well thought out, and had the audience captivated - more great things are expected in his upcoming CC's.
Ruth repeated her Demo speech from a few days back, on stress and stress management. The slides that accompanied her presentation provided all the humour required to relieve us all of any stresses we may have had, and she appropriately finished with a flower - yes, always take time out to stop and smell the roses.

Jerry gave a 15 minute speech of wonder. Clearly a huge amount of preparation had gone into it, and he regaled his audience with humour that was distinctly himself. Guests visitors and members leaned forward trying to ensure they did not miss out on any of the subtle references he was making, and when he shook his "imshumi-wam" to finish, it was clear he had won best speaker of the evening.

Toastmasters_Forestry
Forestry in South Africa

Keith once again brought the projector into play and gave a presentation on sawmill logging in South Africa. How many times do we get to listen to the intricacies of this industry?
To have it presented to us by one of our most experienced members was a delight.

A short recess was followed by Rod taking control of Table Topics, and asking participants to tell us how they would grow and nurture and harvest and utilize two green items of produce.
Ryan, John, and Ruth took up the challenge of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruits, and if their words are anything to by, we can be expect some exciting new produce to hit the shelves shortly...watch this space!

Our next meeting on the 29th of March 2010 is our bring a friend evening - so gather your friends and family, even your boss, and join us for a special night.

Raid on George

Transformers Toastmasters made a raid on Hatch Toastmasters in an attempt to bring home George, the Traveling Gavel. Four members, Keith Bowen, Mary Byrne, Jim Powell and John-Peter Gernaat braved the portals of corporate-dom only to find another visiting club, CIS Toastmasters, with six member having the same intention as ourselves. Formidably out-numbered we graciously stood aside to allow CIS to take George home with them. But we will not permit them to keep George for very long.

The evening was nonetheless very pleasant with three prepared speeches, a programme topic of Vacations to Nowhere and impromptu speeches about interesting if obscure vacation destinations.

John-Peter was asked to provide the Toast of the Evening and evaluate a speech, while Mary undertook the roles as Timekeeper and General Evaluator. In her evaluation of the evening she gave a critical and constructive report of the evening proceedings. Jim participated in the Table Topics. CIS provided a prepared speech, an evaluator and a Chief Evaluator to the evening. The visiting clubs did not sit idly by and watch the evening’s programme. Hatch is a small club and one quickly experienced the work expected of so few to hold a successful meeting.

Hatch did provide a full dinner with dessert and the most fabulous hot chocolate source, but what is it with Toastmasters clubs: the evening ended with chocolates being presented to all attendees.

Transformers holds its next club meeting on Monday, 8th March and as always guests are very welcome to attend.